Language arts scores dip for Florida third graders

DOE says districts with more in-person learning did better

The Florida Department of Education reported that 54% of third-grade students this year scored “satisfactory” or above on the state English-language arts exam, a 4 percentage-point decrease from 2019 when the exam was last administered.

The Florida Department of Education reported that 54% of third-grade students this year scored “satisfactory” or above on the state English-language arts exam, a 4 percentage-point decrease from 2019 when the exam was last administered.

The department, however, touted the results as evidence of the importance of keeping schools open through the COVID-19 pandemic.

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In a news release accompanying the results, the department wrote that despite the decrease, “the data clearly shows that, on average, districts with higher rates of in-person instruction weathered the ‘COVID slide’ better and saw lesser declines between 2019 and 2021 than districts with higher rates of virtual instruction.”

Under an emergency order issued by the department in April, accountability measures were waived for all state exams administered to students this year.

The department said Tuesday that the exam’s results instead will “help policymakers understand the reading achievements and deficiencies of Florida’s Grade 3 students.”

“Obviously, our numbers, we want them to go up and increase for our students,” said Russell Bruhn with Brevard Public Schools.

But most districts saw the opposite this year.

A score of “three” is a passing score and considered to be at grade level. Compared to 2019′s scores, all but three Central Florida counties dropped.

Orange and Marion remained the same while Sumter was the only district to see an improvement.

Flagler County was down 9 points, which was the greatest drop in Central Florida.

“I believe this shows how important face-to-face instruction is for our students,” Flagler Schools Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt said.

Flagler Schools in a statement Wednesday said, while scores dropped 9 points, they still ended up 5 points above the state average.

Six other Central Florida counties were also above or at the state average.

Results from other statewide assessments will be published no later than July 31, according to the department.

Here are percentages of students in each county that scored “satisfactory” or above:

  • St. Johns: 78%
  • Baker: 68%
  • Nassau: 68%
  • Sumter: 68%
  • Sarasota: 66%
  • Santa Rosa: 65%
  • Seminole: 65%
  • Clay: 63%
  • Lafayette: 63%
  • Okaloosa: 63%
  • Union: 63%
  • Calhoun: 62%
  • Charlotte: 62%
  • Jackson: 62%
  • Walton: 61%
  • Brevard: 60%
  • Collier: 60%
  • Columbia: 60%
  • Indian River: 60%
  • Wakulla: 60%
  • Washington: 60%
  • Flagler: 59%
  • Monroe: 58%
  • Miami-Dade: 57%
  • Hernando: 57%
  • Dixie: 56%
  • Liberty: 56%
  • Pasco: 56%
  • Gilchrist: 55%
  • Orange: 55%
  • Citrus: 54%
  • Leon: 54%
  • Palm Beach: 54%
  • Pinellas: 54%
  • Volusia: 54%
  • Alachua: 53%
  • Broward: 53%
  • Escambia: 53%
  • Suwannee: 53%
  • Bay: 52%
  • Lake: 52%
  • Martin: 52%
  • Bradford: 51%
  • Hardee: 51%
  • Hillsborough: 51%
  • Levy: 51%
  • Okeechobee: 51%
  • Gulf: 50%
  • Lee: 50%
  • Manatee: 49%
  • Duval: 48%
  • Osceola: 47%
  • Polk: 47%
  • St. Lucie: 47%
  • Highlands: 46%
  • Holmes: 46%
  • Madison: 44%
  • Marion: 44%
  • Putnam: 39%
  • Taylor: 39%
  • Glades: 38%
  • Hendry: 37%
  • Franklin: 34%
  • Hamilton: 34%
  • DeSoto: 32%
  • Gadsden: 31%
  • Jefferson: 28%

About the Authors:

Lauren Cervantes was born and raised in the Midwest but calls Florida her second home. She joined News 6 in August 2019 as a reporter.